Skip to comments.Give them libertarianism, and a moving van
Posted on 10/17/2003 4:08:18 PM PDT by RJCogburn
It wasn't just the cheap rent and quiet living that convinced Justin Somma to move from the suburbs of New York City to the southwestern corner of New Hampshire last month. Equally appealing to this libertarian-minded 20-something is his new state's lack of an income tax or even a motorcycle-helmet law.
Mr. Somma's migration is just the first of many encouraged by the Free State Project (FSP), which has set out to flood New Hampshire with 20,000 people bent on shrinking government. This month, FSP members chose the "Live Free or Die" state as their destination in an online vote.
They don't lack ambition: Not since the Mormons moved west and Utopians built communities in the 19th century has a single group attempted a migration of this scale. Their goal: Use a concentrated presence to make one of the nation's most fiscally conservative and small-government minded states even more so.
How many FSP members actually make the move - and how much influence they exert once they arrive - is far from clear. But few here are surprised that their state beat out its New England neighbors and western competitors, given New Hampshire's frugality, "live and let live" social policies and tradition of local rule.
"The appeal is almost obvious," says B. Thomas Schuman, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "New Hampshire has a tradition of low-tax, low-service politics and government, and their hatred of broad-based taxation is fairly legendary."
Birth of an idea, rise of a movement
At first glance, the other northern New England contenders might seem appealing, too. Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire share the "live and let live" attitude that puts privacy first in social policies such as gay rights or abortion, says Dartmouth College professor Richard Winters.
Yet what libertarian wouldn't prefer a state where legislators take such pride in their own thrift that they haven't raised their $100 annual salaries since 1889?
Sure, Wyoming and Idaho residents may mistrust government more than most New Englanders. But New Hampshire's small size has forced citizens since the Revolutionary War to work together.
The byproduct is perhaps the nation's most accessible government, with local rule by town meeting and a 400-person House, the largest in the country. Plus, as home to the nation's first presidential primary, New Hampshire offers greater national visibility than any prairie state.
If those criteria sound too fuzzy, the FSP conducted statistical regression analysis of each of the 10 nominees - based on factors such as tax burden, dependence on federal dollars, projected job growth, and crime rates.
That academic approach isn't surprising for a political movement born in a Yale graduate student's online journal article. The author, Jason Sorens, argued "liberty-oriented people" could have the biggest impact by concentrating in a single state. Once there, they could work to roll back gun-control laws and drug prohibitions.
His message struck a chord with 4,800 people who've signed on to relocate to New Hampshire - though only a handful have actually moved. The group hopes to recruit an additional 15,000 people by 2006, at which point members will have five years in which to relocate to the state.
Somma didn't even wait for the vote before moving to New Hampshire. New York's high taxes and cost of living had convinced him and his wife, who both work in publishing, to move. He liked what he read about New Hampshire on the FSP website and was excited about an alternative to the two-party system.
"I like seeing somebody who isn't owned by the two big names," he says. His wife was more drawn to New Hampshire's camping, hiking, and proximity to their families in New York.
Within a month, they'd settled in Keene, a college town and the rare liberal outpost in New Hampshire where a "Dennis Kucinich for President" banner hangs and a hemp-clothing store sits right off Main Street.
After migration, an action plan
In many ways, Somma is a typical New Hampshire transplant. Just as liberal migrants reinforce Maine and Vermont's political cultures, more conservative types have tended to make New Hampshire more conservative.
Observers say that pattern may make it hard for FSP members to distinguish themselves in a state where the dominant Republican Party already looks like what libertarians might advocate elsewhere.
The Democratic Party hasn't been much of a presence here since the Civil War. And an antitax platform has been a GOP staple here for half a century - a view loudly reinforced by the state's leading conservative voice, the Manchester Union Leader newspaper.
"I'm somewhat dubious about how much different this might be from what we already have," says Professor Schuman.
The New Hampshire Libertarian Party could certainly use a boost. Their candidate for governor got just 13,028 last November and the number of Libertarians in the legislature have fallen from three to zero.
Here in Keene, at Lindy's Diner, where President Bush cooked up a hamburger on a campaign stop four years ago, waitress Denise Vachon says she never even heard of the Libertarians before their gubernatorial candidate showed up last year.
Mr. Sorens stresses FSP members are not just libertarians - that the group attracts people of any - or no - ideological stripe.
The group has received a mixed reception from New Hampshire's political establishment. Republican Gov. Craig Benson welcomed the group during a June picnic and released an enthusiastic press release after they picked New Hampshire. A Concord Monitor editorial labeled them nothing more than an "amusing curiosity."
Free State Project leaders say they realize that even 20,000 newcomers can't, by themselves, take over politics in a state of 1.3 million people. Instead, FSP organizers envision participants as a core of activists and volunteers, who will join the Lions Club or push for more private-school options long before they ever run for elected office.
Somma has already sat through his first three-hour city council committee debate on Keene's parkland and is helping a fellow FSP member run for the city council.
Still, he says he has a more immediate concern than politics. The Brooklyn native is adjusting to the slower pace of life. And then there's the weather "It's getting cold," he says.
I'd also guess that head injuries in motorcycle accidents in N.H. are no greater than those in more populous and diverse states WITH helmet laws.
Right now there are over 5k. If you would bother to read the information plainly laid out on the website, the plan is for 20k. The plan outlined by this 'fantasy' is actually well AHEAD of schedule. Not too shabby for a 'pipe dream'...JFK
Just under, actually, around 4800 last time I checked. It was over 5500 prior to the state selection vote, but some 800 listed NH as an *opt-out* choice indicating that they would NOT be moving there- no big deal, so long as the FSP organizers don't incorrectly figure them as in with the others who are planning on making the move to NH; the FSP has in the past picked up 300 new pledged porcupines in as little as a single week.
But even better, many of those 800 are Western residents or western FSP inclined, and have begun their own *Free West Project* looking at the possibility of mirroring the FSP effort in a Western state or states- Wyoming, the #2 choice in the recent FSP runoff is at present most popular, but Montana and Idaho are very much in contention...and contiguous; most of those Western alternatives already have their own individual discussion groups and existing residents, so they have a good start. It's entirely possible that they'll have porcupine [or other mascot/symbol] enclaves in multiple western locales.
Just think: a return to a love of individual liberty and basic American principles could be breaking out all over....
That's the point.
They don't exist.
It's a (ahem) "pipe dream."
Your information isn't up-to-date. In the year 2000 they didn't exist; the signups began around this time of the year in 2001, beginning with founder Jason Sorens. About a year later, they had the first thousand. A year after that, 5000 [now]. The projection for the immediate future, based on the expansion of the numbers at a very conservative doubling of those 5K members now present will have 10K by this time next year. And a year after that, doubled again, they'll begin making the move once that 20,000 number is reached; some are not waiting, and at least two FReeper Porcupines are hoping to be resident in the Granite State before New Years. But once there are 20K, they have 5 years in which to make the move; assuming 20,000 are signed on by 30 October 2005, the migration should be complete by the end of the decade.
But the recruitment of new Porcupines will NOT be halted once 20K are signed on; and as it continues that will ensure that at *least* 20K make the move at a minimum. But supposing those numbers continue to double annually- and to date, they've more than doubled.
2000- No FSP
Oct 2001- 1 member
Oct 2002- 1000 pledged FSPers
Oct 2003- 5000 pledged FSPers; NH state picked for project;
Oct 2004- 10,000 Porcupines [projected- if the 2003 # [only] doubles]
Oct 2005- 20,000 Porcupines [projected- double the 2004 figure. And with that 20K goal reached, it's time to move!
With a period of five years to actually make that move. And in that time, if the numbers continue at the previous rate [and don't actually increase!]
Oct 2006- 40,000 Porcupines
Oct 2007- 80,000 Porcupines
Oct 2008- 160,000 Porcupines
Oct 2009- 320,000 Porcupines
Oct 2010- 640,000 Porcupines- at least a half-million plus. And of course most of the children who were 10 years of age in the year 2000 will be of legal age to vote in the 2008 November elections; certainly by 2010.
But just going back to those 20,000 voting Porcupines:
For a start, let's just see what can be done with 20,000 new FSP NH Porcupines. And, of course, a quarter-million NH *Undeclared*:
NH State voter registration, September 02 2001 [after list purge]
REPUBLICANS 245,791/ 37.3%
UNDECLARED 242,028/ 36.8%
DEMOCRATS 170,405/ 25.9%
And if the NH Porcupine numbers do happen to reach a half million or more by the end of the latter half of the decade, there'd be enough Porcupine voters to outnumber the Republicans and Democrats combined.
In practical terms, I think it more likely that should that point be reached, some of those would more likely assist the Western effort, or begin building another nest of Porcupines in a second Eastern seaboard location; hopefully contiguous to NH. But what if the increase remains the same as it did from 2002-2003 and increases fivefold? Or even grows beyond that figure? What then?
We'd be very pleased to have you as a FSP member.
In any event, I think it's safe to say we'll certainly enjoy having you for a neighbor.
Not true: The Somalians and Lewiston, Maine.
The Hmong in Missoula, Montana are another such group, a matter of considerable interest to *FSP West* researchers. They're not *quite* libertarians, but treasure their freedom and citizenship particularly.
Well, we are moving to a locale called the Granite state....
LOOK OUT,NEW HAMPSHIRE!!!!!
I can't wait to see what the Porcupines from New Orleans do by way of a Granite State Vieux Carre....
As for "wherewithall" - I make a six figure income.
BTW, you'll have a respectable amount of Porcupine company:
A surprising number are not going to wait until 20,000 members join the Free State Project and choose to move to New Hampshire:
When > 20k have joined-46%
In 0-3 years- 54%
How many? None. That's how many.
Then you're proven wrong. A few have already moved. And the bulk of the internal conversation among the others right now is where to move to.
I'd like to believe it's true. I'm very sympathetic to the goals and values expoused by the Free State Project people. I'd like to believe that UFO's exist too.
But I can't. The FSP, like Leprechauns, are an agreeable fiction.
But they're not real.
But they're not real.
Sure, and ye'd best be haltin' your fibs, or one of us unreal porkiepine little people will be a-comin' for to crack yer shins a good one with a shillelagh....
We could use some here in Cheshire county.